Swansea Law students learn about cutting-edge digital verification techniques

Six students from the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law’s LLM in LegalTech and LLM in Human Rights programmes undertook an intensive two-day training course with Amnesty International on 20 and 21 October 2018.

In the training, the students, all of whom are taking Swansea’s Rights and Accountability: Technology and Law module, learned about how Amnesty uses user-generated content in its investigations into human rights violations. They then undertook practical training into verification methods – including learning how to geolocate content using EXIF metadata; how to use geospatial techniques to locate sites and monitor changes in landscapes over time; how to conduct advanced searches of social media platforms, and how to distinguish between different weapons and ordnances.

The training, which took place at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, also covered crucial issues of self-care and resilience when dealing with harrowing content in human rights work, and highlighted useful tools for investigations using digital content. The training was attended by 40 students from Swansea, Essex and Cambridge Universities, and was led by Sam Dubberley, Manager of Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, with input from members of Amnesty’s Crisis Response team.

Rights and Accountability: Technology and Law 2Swansea students hard at work during the training

‘This training gave our students a unique insight into the future of human rights fact-finding’, said Dr Yvonne McDermott Rees, who led the group, and who is currently Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded project that examines the use of open source evidence in human rights. According to Lauren Kent, a student on Swansea’s new LLM in LegalTech, ‘I found the whole experience really interesting and informative. It was a fantastic opportunity to see all the work that goes on in the background of Amnesty’s crisis team. It was particularly fascinating to see how much information can be extracted from just one image. I am eager and can’t wait to use the training and get involved with Amnesty’s future projects.’

Rights and Accountability: Technology and LawSwansea students and their lecturer (L-R: Dr Yvonne McDermott Rees, Igor Tetiu, Nasima Brohi, Lauren Kent, Margaret Nawing, Aleksandra Zadroga, Emanuil Zashev)

Aleksandra Zadroga of the LLM in Human Rights programme noted that: ‘The digital verification training has been a fascinating and invaluable experience. It gave us a unique opportunity to see how global NGOs operate and investigate human rights violations. It allowed us to meet fellow students and lecturers working on similar research projects, as well as learn from some of the most qualified specialists in the field. I am beyond excited to put the knowledge into practice and work with Amnesty in the future.’